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Media association calls for replacement of southern military command's press department head

by Martin Fornusek April 16, 2024 11:25 PM 3 min read
Nataliia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for the joint southern command of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, talks to the Kyiv Independent about the military situation in southern Ukraine. (Oleksandr Gimanov)
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Editor's note: The article was updated on April 17 with a comment from Nataliia Humeniuk for the Kyiv Independent.

Ukrainian media association Mediarukh called on April 16 for the replacement of Nataliia Humeniuk, the head of the military's Southern Operational Command's press department, for allegedly hindering proper war coverage in Kherson Oblast.

Mediarukh's letter is addressed to Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi, and Chief of the General Staff Anatolii Barhylevych and carries 100 signatures of journalists and media workers.

The letter said that while Ukrainians and the world can witness Russia's efforts to destroy Chasiv Yar in Donetsk Oblast or Ukrainian troops holding the line in Kupiansk in Kharkiv Oblast, this is not the case for events in Kherson Oblast, that is, in places where Humeniuk oversees the military's work with the media.

"Because there is no Nataliia Humeniuk in the east, but there is in the south," the letter read. The journalists argue that it is often impossible to obtain permission to access relevant places when most needed.

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War Notes

The signatories argued that not only does this approach hide the faces of Ukrainian defenders in the south, but it also hinders journalists' efforts to cover Russian crimes.

The letter referred not only to the devastation wrought by Russian attacks on Kherson, Beryslav, and other settlements of the region but also to the consequences of the Kakhovka dam breach last summer.

The letter acknowledged that the military has designated certain areas or formations as "red zones," meaning they have stricter rules regarding media access, but said that "the Southern Command's communication department has declared all areas on the Dnipro River and the Black Sea to be 'red zone.'"

Mediarukh's demands to the military included replacing Humeniuk, ensuring media access to relevant parts of Kherson Oblast, revising operation rules of press centers under Humeniuk's command, and "make an effort so that journalists do not have to write another letter regarding the inadmissibility of the leadership of any defense communication structures by Hanna Maliar."

Maliar was dismissed as a deputy defense minister for strategic communications and information policy in September 2023 amid a wider reshuffle at the ministry.

In a comment for the Kyiv Independent, Humeniuk said that there had been no violations of rules on her part and that the "work has always been organized in accordance with operational safety."

"In places where it wasn't possible to give access to civilian journalists, the work has been undertaken by military media groups, press officers, and press services of law enforcement agencies," Humeniuk said.

"There was no obstruction of the coverage of Russian crimes," she added.

Recent campaigns against journalists raise concerns about press freedom in Ukraine
Investigative journalists in Ukraine came under two attacks in just the past week, one involving a threatening home visit and another using covert surveillance. The two incidents are the latest in a series of discrediting campaigns against independent Ukrainian media, often supported by anonymous p…
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